As USCIS increases scrutiny of immigration filings, processing times for nearly all immigration categories has increased, as has the margin of error at agency service centers.  Liz Stern discusses changes within the agency, and how those changes are impacting employers and foreign nationals applying for US immigration benefits in a recent Law360 article.

With the March 29, 2019 date for Brexit looming and no deal to address the separation yet approved, the House of Commons voted on March 14, 2019, to defer Brexit until at least June 30, 2019.  The vote of 413 in favor versus 202 against provided a clear majority of 211 for the government, a move that may avert the expected chaos that a “no deal” scenario would pose.

By law, however, the delay can only be authorized by the EU, with unanimous approval of the leaders of the remaining 27 countries in the bloc.  The prime minister faces a significant challenge in seeking that approval, as EU officials have said they will permit a delay only if Britain makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit.  Although the bloc could consider a delay to Brexit, it  has made clear that after two years negotiating with Ms. May, it is not open to more talks on her deal, meaning the prime minister needs to find a way to convince British lawmakers to accept it.

The prime minister thus plans to make a third attempt to have parliament agree to a divorce deal — which the MPs have already rejected twice — next week, in advance of an upcoming EU summit.  Lawmakers also rejected, by a vote of 334 to 85, a second referendum on EU membership. Continue Reading MPs Vote To Extend Brexit Deadline for Three Months

The US Department of Homeland Security quadrupled its worksite immigration enforcement actions in fiscal year 2018 and no employer is immune from the increased scrutiny on immigration compliance. Mayer Brown’s Liz Stern and Dan Stein offer five questions to help employers assess their risk in an article published in Bloomberg Business.

 

On March 11, 2019, USCIS will publish a revised Form I-539 with an edition date of February 4, 2019. Effective March 11, USCIS will only accept the new I-539; all previous editions will be rejected.  In addition, the agency will introduce a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to change or extend the nonimmigrant status of additional dependents (or “co-applicants”).  Each co-applicant must completed and sign a separate Form I-539A.

At the same time, USCIS will require that all I-539 applicants and co-applicants each pay a $85 biometrics fee and have their biometrics taken at a USCIS Application Support Center.   However, certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants will be exempt from the biometrics requirement.  For more information, please refer to USCIS’s news alert.

USCIS has announced that starting February 19, 2019, it will resume premium processing service for all H-1B petitions (including change of employer or “port” petitions) filed on or before December 21, 2018.  Petitioners seeking to upgrade their pending H-1B petitions to premium processing must submit their request to the service center where the petition is pending.  In some instances petitions have been transferred to a service center other than the office where the petition was originally filed.  The premium processing request must be filed at the service center where the petition was transferred and a copy of the transfer notice must be submitted with the request.  If the premium processing request is sent to the wrong service center, USCIS will forward the request to the correct location.  However, the 15-day premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center.  If a petitioner was issued a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, it should include the RFE response with the premium processing request.  This follows last month’s USCIS announcement to resume premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed in April 2018.  There has been no update, yet, regarding the availability of premium processing for this year’s cap-subject petitions, which will be filed in April 2019.

Earlier this week USCIS published its final rule introducing an online pre-registration process for H-1B cap petitions and changing the order of the two lotteries for visa beneficiaries.  In reaction to USCIS’s announcement, Law360 spoke with immigration practitioners, including Mayer Brown’s Paul Virtue, about the impact of these changes on employers and the business community.  Read more at Law360.

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has posted a final rule regarding the H-1B cap selection process. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 31, 2019 and will go into effect on April 1, 2019.

The Final Rule

The posted rule is the final version of the proposed rule titled “Registration Requirement for Petitions Seeking to File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens,” which was published for public comments on December 3, 2018.  During the 30-day comment period, the proposed rule received over 800 public comments. Continue Reading Department of Homeland Security Posts Final Rule Regarding H-1B Cap Filings

On January 25, 2019, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency would reinstate premium processing for H-1B petitions filed last April under the FY 2019 annual quota (the “cap”), including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (i.e., holders of US master’s degrees or higher). This reinstatement of premium processing is only available for pending petitions and will not apply to new submissions, as the FY 2019 cap quota has already been met.

The premium processing service permits employers to pay an additional fee of $1,410 to have an immigration benefit adjudicated within 15 days, and USCIS will return the additional fee to the employer if the benefit application is not timely adjudicated. Continue Reading USCIS to Resume Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions Filed in April 2018 That Remain Pending

As the longest federal government shutdown in United States history endures, Law360 discusses how the lack of government funding has impacted the field of business immigration.  Although most business immigration processes remain largely unaffected, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, the Department of Labor, Customs and Border Protection, and US immigration courts have all felt the strain of the shutdown.  To find out more, including Paul Virtue’s comments on the shutdown, read the article here.

Every January, employers go into high gear to prepare H-1B cap-subject petitions for filing on the first business day of April.  This year, employers must also monitor for potential regulatory changes to the filing process.  On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens.”  The 30-day public comment period closed January 2, 2019, and employers remain in wait for the impact to this year’s cap-subject filings.  While President Trump tweeted about H-1B changes that “are soon coming,” it is not clear whether they relate to the proposed rule.

The proposed rule seeks to accomplish two goals: streamline the H-1B selection and filing process by creating a pre-registration system, and increase the chances of selection for H-1B petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption by reversing the order in which the cap lotteries are run.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (the agency responsible for immigration benefits within DHS) received over 800 comments on the proposed regulation, including comments from the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The public comments criticize the proposed timeline and logistics, identify impacts stretching beyond immigration law, and suggest that the proposed rule may face court challenges if implemented:

Continue Reading Impact of Proposed H-1B Rule on Annual Cap Filings